06 October 2022

Market Scouts: Connecting Youth with the Local Food System

From 2020 to 2022, Slow Food Portland and Portland Farmers Market have partnered to offer Market Scouts at the Lents International Farmers Market (LIFM) on Sundays, 9 am – 2 pm. 

Market Scouts provides a fun opportunity for children ages 3 – 12 to engage in the local food system through conversations directly with farmers and engaging in educational activities about food and farming. These exchanges will lead to lifelong positive impacts on individual and community health. 

Here’s how the program works:

Kids first check in at the Market Scouts booth near the LIFM market info booth. Their visits are tracked by giving them a stamp by the day’s date on their card that is kept on file. (Kids can join the program anytime during the market season!)

Then the Market Scouts facilitator takes the kids through an educational activity like participating in a hands-on demonstration, playing an interactive game, receiving a take-home recipe highlighting seasonal ingredients, or tasting fresh seasonal produce directly from a market farmer.

For the 2022 season, Market Scouts is sharing lots of BEAN knowledge from the 2022 Slow Food USA Plant a Seed program which is all about BEANS! The market season kicked off this year by teaching the kids how to germinate dry beans.

Other activities from this season include:

  • Learning about urban and rural foraging.
  • Discover the parts of a flower by dissection.
  • Learning about the Three Sisters and receiving squash, corn & bean starts to grow at home.
  • Tasting various kinds of stone fruit, berries and apples.
  • Sampling recipes made with produce from market farmers, such as zucchini noodles with sesame dressing and fresh salsa with tortilla chips.

In addition to the activity, kids receive a $3 Market Scouts token to buy fresh produce from LIFM farmers. Kids can spend their token on fresh fruit and vegetables; they may choose to spend it all in one week or save up for an even bigger purchase later. This allows them to act as participants in their local economy, increasing the sales for the farmers at the LIFM, making healthy food choices for themselves and taking home more produce.

Photos by Shawn Linehan.

Founded in 2006 by a community of volunteers and run by Zenger Farm, LIFM has always had a multicultural focus on providing fresh, affordable, and culturally appropriate produce to the diverse community of Lents neighbors. It is also an important sales outlet for immigrant and beginning farmers and new small food business owners. 

Portland Farmers Market accepted the management of the LIFM in 2016 while maintaining a partnership with Zenger Farms to manage the market’s kids program, Food Scouts. 

Due to the pandemic and unforeseen consequences in 2020, Slow Food Portland stepped in to continue the kids’ programming at LIFM and renamed it Market Scouts. In its first year, Market Scouts distributed take-home activities (i.e., recipes using seasonal produce available at LIFM, making watercolors out of veggies scraps, going on a nature treasure hunt in their neighborhoods, etc.) and $3,099 in market tokens to 250 kids!


Over the 25-week season in 2021, over 400 kids participated in a world-tour-themed curriculum and received $4,359 in market tokens. Youths planted parsley seeds to take home to grow along with a recipe for Argentinian chimichurri sauce, learned farmers market vocabulary in Russian, blended Mediterranean herbal salts, took home a recipe for West African peanut stew, sampled Korean zucchini pancakes and more.


In the 2022 season so far, 300 kids have visited Market Scouts. An average of 55 kids visit Markets Scouts weekly. 

Through the Market Scouts program, Portland Farmers Market and Slow Food Portland hope to encourage youth to build a sense of community through food and foster healthy and sustainable food choices.

Visit Market Scouts every Sunday 9 am – 2 pm at LIFM through November 20, 2022. Bring the kids by, or just come to say hi!